If I had the least bit of wisdom I would follow the path of Tao quite well
My only fear would be trying to go my own way
The Great Path is simple and direct yet people love to take the side-routes
See how magnificent the courts have become
The women dress in colourful gowns
The men carry well crafted swords
Food and drink overflow
Wealth and finery abound
Yet in the shadow of all splendour the fields grow barren the granaries are all but empty
I say this pomp at the expense of others is like the boasting of thieves after a looting
Surely it is contrary to Tao
Surely it cuts against the grain of the whole empire
(Translation by Jonathan Star)
Yet another translation of this chapter reads;
With but a small understanding
One may follow The Way like a main road,
Fearing only to leave it;
Following a main road is easy,
Yet people delight in difficult paths.
When palaces are kept up
Fields are left to weeds
And granaries empty;
Wearing fine clothes,
Bearing sharp swords,
Glutting with food and drink,
Hoarding wealth and possessions –
These are the ways of theft,
And far from The Way.
(Translation by ZenGuide)
As citizens we cannot ‘blame the water for coming through the hole’. We need to first repair the hole.
Imagine a country that promoted the Tao Te Ching. The values and aims would cultivate a population very different from our reality.
Those in charge would ‘stay on the path’ and make better decisions. They would not take side paths leading to egotistic decision-making. Self-centered decisions made by governments puts their interests above those they swore to serve. When we stray from the central path of wisdom, our choices become dictated by personal karma rather than the path of greater good.
The very reason for government is the care and feeding of those governed. For those in charge to ignore their mandate in favour of feathering their own nests is an abuse of power. Such abuse may prosper for a time but it cannot be maintained, as it goes against the universal plan … the nature of the universe.
Indulging in extravagant excesses is not The Way, it is “the boasting of thieves.”
“The Great Path is simple and direct”, take the easy road. See the light. Don’t be distracted by the side roads, persistently offered in many guises.